| Tollygunge Agragamiís Ashim Biswas jubilates after scoring against Churchill Brothers at the Salt Lake Stadium Monday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Tollygunge Agragami almost managed to keep intact their reputation as giant killers in their National Football League match against Churchill Brothers at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday.
They would have retained that sobriquet had Mehtab Hossain not missed a penalty in the 81st minute. Though the final result read 1-1, it concealed the fact that the under-rated city team could easily have gone home with three points.
The splitting of points means Tollygunge now have four from three games while Churchill have played the same number of matches for two points.
It was indeed a creditable show by the Tollygunge boys, especially given the problems they face every day just to get a practice ground. They donít have a fixed ground and even on the eve of such a crucial match, were made to wait for more than 45 minutes just to get a feel of the ground.
However, what they lack by way of infrastructure, they more than made up through sheer guts and fought every inch against a team, much heavier to them, at least on paper.
While the first half saw both teams sizing each other up and not going all-out to attack, the second saw the Goans starting to show more enterprise. However, Tollygunge, playing the counter-attack based football they are so adept at caught the opposition defence napping.
Man of the Match Ashim Biswas was outstanding for the local side. He controlled the ball brilliantly in the middle-third and initiated the attacks. He shuffled position continuously and tried to make his way into the penetrative zone.
But the need to have Yakubu, last yearís NFL top-scorer in check meant that Tollygunge sometimes were a man down in attack. Moses Owira and Sandip Das, who are quite adept in assuming attacking roles, were specifically tasked by coach Aloke Mukherjee not to cross the centre-circle and patrol Yakubu.
Despite the marking, the Ghanaian had quite a superb match.
He fell back, changed positions, took potshots at the goal but was let down by the lack of good support from teammates in the penetrative zone. Also, the Churchill boys failed to stretch the game to the wings when they couldnít manage to break the Tollygunge defensive wall through the middle.
Churchill got a penalty in the 49th minute when Yakubuís free-kick from the right struck the cross-piece and came back to play to catch Mosesí hand. Yakubu made no mistake from the spot.
Tollygunge came straight back to equalise within minute. A low Hossain cross from the right found Biswas and he promptly slotted the ball in.
In the 61st minute, Tollygunge got a reprieve when Yakubuís booming right-footer struck the cross-piece and came back into the play.
But ten minutes from time, Tollygunge missed the opportunity of the day. After Biswas was brought down by Roque Barreto inside the box, Hossain stood up to take the spot-kick pushing the specialise shooters Akeem Abolanle and Isiaka Awoyemi out of the fray. But his low drive missed the target robbing Tollygunge the chance to garner full points.
Churchill Brothers: Edward Ansah; Denzel Ferraro, Mahesh Gawli, Osumano Husseini, Rajesh Meetei; Roque Barreto (Zaheer Abbas, 83), Nascimento Silveira, Noel Wilson, Kanta Singh (Ratan Singh, 82) Yusuf Yakubu, Kasif Jamal (Tiken Singh, 62).
Tollygunge Agragami: Arindam Ghosh; Amitava Chanda (Kabijit Khotel, 70), Isiaka Awoyemi, Debkumar Sashmol, Dipayan Majumdar; Mehtab Hossain, Sandip Das, Moses Owira, Sujoy Dutta (Srikanta Dutta, 60); Ashim Biswas, Akeem Abolanle.
Referee: S. Sujauddin.
Tollygunge will sign their new Nigerian recruit, Josuah, on Thursday. He is a defender and will be the their fourth foreigner for the NFL.